The Ghost and the Darkness (1996) Poster

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The most famous adventurous true story of Africa..
Boba_Fett113820 March 2007
...Well according to Hollywood anyway, since "The Ghost and the Darkness" actually takes lots of liberties with its story, about the two man-eating lions of Tsavo. Quite odd since it presses in the beginning that everything you're about to see in this movie, no matter how unbelievable it seems, has truly occurred. Oh well, just a good and clever marketing trick, lets leave it to that. No way they can pull off a trick like this now days in the days of Internet, were with only a few clicks you can look up an historical event. Of course the biggest difference between the truth and fiction is the Remington (Michael Douglas) character, who never existed in real life and also the looks of the lions, who in real life were not maned. But oh well, are these movie changes bad or not believable? No, it strengthens the story and makes it all even more interesting to watch.

I've always loved watching "The Ghost and the Darkness". It's a great adventurous movie with action in it and some good characters, all set in a beautiful environment.

The story is perfectly adventurous and action filled. It's all the more amazing knowing that the story has actually occurred in real life, over an hundred years ago already. The movie and its story is kept simple and allows its images and characters to tell the story.

What I like about the movie is that it fully treats the 'Ghost' and the 'Darkness' (the nicknames of the two man-eating lions) as movie characters. It shows them as smart thinking creatures and not simply just as 'monsters', even though they kill for pleasure (at least in the movie they do).

The movie is definitely helped by its environment and atmosphere. The beautiful African land serves as a perfect backdrop for the movie and also works quite claustrophobic, since the movie is for most part set at just this one location (the railroad and bridge building-site). Also the great Jerry Goldsmith musical score suits the environment and perfectly adds to the atmosphere of the entire movie, as does the cinematography from Vilmos Zsigmond.

Michael Douglas plays a good role and actually shows with this movie how versatile he is as an actor, though his role is definitely smaller than he is credited for in the movie. As also the producer of this movie he obviously claimed to become the top-billing actor of the movie as well. In fact the main part of the movie is being played by Val Kilmer, who plays his character in a way like we're used of him; a humble way and he doesn't try too hard to impress in his role, which also leaves room for the other actors to shine and of course allows the story to be told best. Surprising to see that the movie also had actors in it, that would later turn into big well known names such as Bernard Hill and Tom Wilkinson, in some good roles. Also Om Puri gives a nice performance.

A perfectly fun and simple adventurous action movie. This is high quality entertainment.

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"These Lions . . . Don't Act Like Lions."
stevenlshoup8 April 2006
It is 1898 and charming, cretinous Captain of Industry Beaumont has hired Col. John Patterson,eminent engineer/bridge builder to complete a bridge spanning the river by Tsavo, Africa.

Arriving in the continent he has dreamed of forever, Patterson meets his project. There are problems with it: Competing French and German rivals, Ethnic hatred among the crews and, on Patterson's first day there, a worker is attacked by a lion. He goes to "sort it out" by shooting the beast with one shot; gaining the admiration of his crews, lifting spirits, adding motivation to complete the bridge, and unleashing a nightmare

Only weeks after the shooting the camp is suddenly besieged by a pair of giant man-eating lions. Their first "kill" is Mahina (Henry Cele), considered the strongest man in the camp. This serves to unnerve every man on the project, including Indian rabble-rouser Abdullah, who doesn't like Patterson from the start. Nerves jangle and fray as the lions repeatedly and relentlessly attack and attack and attack! They strike under the cover of night AND during the heat of day; They kill not for hunger, not for sport, but simply because they like it. Men are dragged from their beds and mauled to death in the tall grasses; the hospital becomes a blood-bathe; Laborers aren't safe as the beasts leap out and snatch them from their work. Everything is falling apart and Patterson is at his wit's end as Beaumont arrives to make matters worse. And still the lions attack and attack and attack.

Enter Big Game Hunter Charles Remington who is as determined to destroy the lions as the lions seem determined to eat every man in camp.

This is an under-appreciated, well made, well scripted nail biting adventure. It boasts solid artists on both sides of the lens: William Goldman penned the script, Gail Anne Hurd and H. Kitman Ho are two of the producers who know how to spend the budget wisely, the great Vilmos Zigmond is responsible for the mesmerizing African cinematography. Stephen Hopkins directs with great vision and skill and the actors are uniformly solid and believable in their roles. Val Kilmer plays Patterson with an understated, simple and elegant performance; Tom Wilkerson is the charming snake of a boss Beaumont, Brian McCardie gains the viewers sympathy as a youthful, innocent, and doomed Angus Starling, John Jani is the stalwart Project Manager Samuel, Bernard Hill the irritable/irritating Dr. Hawthorne, Om Puri is the creepy, sarcastic Abdullah ("You are white. You can do anything.") and Michael Douglas, also an Executive Producer – he got the money – plays hunter Charles Remington, removing the sweet edges of his Romancing the Stone role to create our renown hunter.

Hopkins not only knows how to build tension, suspense, and terror, but when to let us relax and how to fill that time. The quiet moments are never dull. They let us empathize with these men, their characters get to develop and we bond with them and their nightmare. Zigmond (Close Encounter of the Third Kind) uses deep oranges and blacks for the African locale, except during a daylight lion hunt and cave exploration when he switches to bright sunlight, vibrant greens and sharp browns as if to show us that even a travelogue holds a nightmare. It is near Hitchcockian.

Rolling underneath the film like summer thunder (or the breathy growl and snarling of our killer lions) is Jerry Goldsmith's pounding, tribal driven score, which accents the mood and gives further dimension to the narrative. Listen closely, you can hear him using tonal motifs he developed for Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

As the hysteria builds and the men frenzy, many explanations are offered for the appearance of these animals: Are they the spirits of medicine men come to exact revenge; Or demons sent by the devil to keep Africa unsoiled; Or have they come to claim John Patterson? Is it to helplessly watch as they strip away the layers of security around him until he is exposed and defenseless against their teeth and claws? It is no coincidence that Kilmer is photographed at times slack- faced and full on and LOOKS like a lion himself.

Once this film starts, I can guarantee you that you won't be able to take a snack break, bathroom break, or even think about dozing off. It is that good. And remember this: You can see the preserved bodies of these two giant man-eaters at the Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois because this incredible story is TRUE.
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Something You Can Sink Your Teeth Into
ccthemovieman-117 February 2006
I always found this to be an outstanding based-on a true story adventure film which holds your interest throughout. It features some great suspense and the story is fascinating. It's always been ranked among my top 50 movies. A good surround system doesn't hurt here, either.

Stan Winston, one of the best special-effects men in the business, lent his talents to this film while Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas are more than adequate in the starring roles and the African with the freckles (sorry, I don't have his name) is really a likeble fellow.

Except for the first one, the lion attack scenes are not gruesome and the filmmakers did a nice job a having just the right amount of action and lulls. Neither is overdone. This film has never been given much due but I've never shown it to anyone who didn't thoroughly enjoy it.

This movie scared me so much I stopped hunting lions. It's just not fun anymore.
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Man is the Prey
sol-kay18 September 2007
(Some Spoilers) True story of the Tasvo Man-eaters who terrorized the workers working on the Kenya Ungandan Railway back in 1898 killing and devouring almost 140 of them in nine, March-December 1898, months. It's during that reign of terror the Tasvo Lions, weighing some 500 pounds each, lived or dined almost exclusively on human flesh.

The film starts with Irish engineer Col. John Patterson, Val Kilmar, sent to Kenya by his British overseer, or boss, the pompous and all full of himself the future Sir, hoping that he'll be knighted by the Queen, Robert Beaumont, Tom Wilkerson. As soon as Col.Patterson arrives on the Dark Continent he's faced with a revolt by those workers that he's in charged of with them afraid to go out and build a bridge over the Tasvo River.

These two man-eating lions have been snatching and devouring workers at will and it thought that they, the killer cats, aren't even lions but evil and murderous spirits preventing the bridge, that's being erected on sacred native ground, from being built. The killings go on unabated and it's when one of the local native leaders Mahina, Danny Cele, is dragged out of his tent and eaten by the lions the rail workers just refused to go back out and lay tracks, to build the bridge, over the Tasvo River.

Being like phantoms more then lions the killer cats are immune to anything that Col. Patterson and his native guide Samuel, John Kani, can come up with in both trapping and killing the two giant felines. It's then out of sheer desperation that the "I've never been wrong in all my life" Robert Beaumont, it must have taken a lot out of his giant ego, hires big game hunter Charles Remington, Michael Douglas, to do the job, kill the Tasvo Man-eaters, that nobody including Col. Patterson can seem to do. ***SPOILER*** Remington who after failing to put down the killer cats with both Col. Patterson and Samuels' help goes out on his own, without Col. Patterson's knowledge, only to end up becoming the Tasvo Man-eaters next victim and meal.

Far better then many of it's critics and detractors say it is "Ghost and the Darkness" does have it's share of shocks and thrills despite not having the benefit, like similar movies like "Jaws", of having any real and state of the art special effects. There's only one scene where there's a mechanical or fake lion, like the shark in "Jaws", in the movie and that was about the most ineffective scene in which the killer cats attacked in the entire film. The lions are seen mostly in close up when they do most of their damage, attacking and killing the rail workers. But the few scenes where the lions do fully expose themselves, like the dream-like attack on Col. Patterson's wife and son, are truly heart-stopping and as good as anything you'd see a like-wise animal attack film.

P.S The notorious Tasvo Lions have been said to have become man-eaters because of an epidemic that killed off most of their food, gazelles zebra and wildebeests, in the area or their hunting grounds. This forced them to go for humans as prey since human beings were the only source of food, with all their normal prey dying out, left open to them. A far more interesting clue, in later checking out their skeletal remains, to the man-eating Tasvo Lions turning to prey on humans has to do with them having abscesses and infections in their teeth and gums. This had the lions suffer extreme and excruciation pain when they had to bite into the extremely thick and tough hides of their normal prey in order to kill and eat them. They turned to hunt kill and eat human beings only because their skin or hides weren't as tough and thus easier to penetrate and not cause the Tasvo Lions any terrible pains in doing so.
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A tense, intense, and spooky hunt
karen-263 October 1998
"The Ghost and the Darkness" is a marvellous movie, in the literal sense: the lions come out of the long grass in the daylight or the groundfog in the darkness like the devils they are thought to be. No true motives are ascribed to them, as how could they be?, and that actually serves to make them more demonically terrifying. But whether they are the devils come to prevent Val Kilmer's Patterson from building his bridge, or merely (!) animals hunting for the pleasure of it, they provide more suspense, more terror, and more death than most high-tech cgi aliens. Michael Douglas's Remington, dispossessed of home and family in the American civil war, is an interesting character, but it's Kilmer's British bridge-builder in a time where engineers had to know how to shoot tigers and manage Hindu-Muslim conflicts fully as much as how to put up their structures, who is the focus of the film, and rightly so. Kilmer's performance is quiet, almost understated, but one of the best I've seen him give; he's fully convincing, especially as he fights the belief that the lions are, in fact, out to get him personally. "They are just lions," he says halfway through the movie, and you can hear how much he wants to believe it. John Kani also gives a good performance, contained mostly in small moments that are so true they almost hurt. The cinematography is beautiful, especially the of the lion attacks and their passages through the grass. Again, no cgi effects could convey so much beauty and lurking menace. This movie is beautiful, intense, and dramatic; I highly recommend it.
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decent adventure yarn
rupie8 July 1999
"The Ghost & the Darkness" is a very good adventure flick set in Africa in the late 19th century, and is based on a true incident. Kilmer plays an engineer sent to build a railroad bridge over the Tsavo river. Work is halted by attacks from two man-eating lions which terrorize the workers. Seems these lions are exhibiting behavior not seen in lions before, i.e. they appear to be hunting for sport ('the Ghost' and 'the Darkness' are the names given to the 2 lions by the native workers). Douglas plays a famous renegade American hunter, a tragically scarred Civil War veteran, hired by the railroad to kill the lions.

Good adventure, well-paced, with stunning photography of the African countryside. The movie has an "R" rating which I can't figure out; perhaps because of the bloodiness of the lion dinner scenes (and lunch, and breakfast, and between-meal snacks....). I have seen many PG13's which have more blood & guts than this.

I give it a straight A; my 10-year old son gave it an enthusiastic thumbs-up also).
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One has to pray that the hunters don't become prey by that which is hunted.
Mickey-224 April 2000
"The Ghost and the Darkness" is based on an episode from the jungles of 1896 East Africa. Various European countries are engaged in the process of establishing colonies in the wealthy lands of East Africa, and chief among those is Great Britain.

Val Kilmer has been given a task--to build a bridge over a river in one of the British colonial ventures in East Africa. When he arrives at the site, he learns that the task has been brought to a total halt by the presence of two man-eating lions the natives refer to as The Ghost and The Darkness. These lions hunt as a team, and seem to have no fear of any outside force. What's more, efforts to hunt them down have all ended in failure. Kilmer enrolls the aid of an ardent big-game hunter, Remington, played by Michael Douglas. Together, the two men set out to end the killing spree and thus allow the bridge to be built.

The story is marked with violence, may be a bit squeamish for some, but the scenery and photography, coupled with a good story, makes it all worth while. There is also a very unusual musical score, which adds to the background of the entire film. On my own scale, a 9 out of 10
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A success in originality, story telling, and terror.
thorn-313 December 1998
The Ghost and the Darkness is an excellent film. It has the ingredients of a landmark movie. The story is based on fact. There was a bridge being built in Tsavo in 1898. There were two man-eating lions there who killed 130 people for no reason. And I believe there was something more behind the intentions of these lions. Evil can and does exist anywhere. Undoubtedly in humans, and, probably more than we'll ever know, in animals. The Ghost and the Darkness is a reminder how vulnerable we are to nature's fury, and that we should never under-estimate the potential of any animal.

In closing, I'll say that this movie is perfectly directed, superbly scored, and beautifully filmed, and to the adventurous and open-minded viewer, a movie with lasting satisfying and chilling effects.
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Graphic, riveting story. Highly Recommended
markeastaugh13 November 2006
I have watched this movie around 4 times now and still find it riveting. It contains great wildlife panoramas/scenery and I think the story line is well developed and interesting.

Being based on a true story gives it extra appeal. The acting is exceptional by all.

I have one question though which maybe someone can answer. Is the character of Charles Remington (Michael Douglas) real or fictional ? I thought I had heard of Remington before but can find no information regarding him on the WWW. There is also no mention of Remington in all the info on the Field Museum (Chicago Illinois) site for the TSAVO man eaters. That site states that Patterson killed both lions (on two separate occasions).I am inclined to think that the info there is historical and true.

Does anyone know anything about Charles Remington ?

Great movie. I recommend it to all.
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Based on real events about two lions whose attacks stop the construction of the East African Railroad
ma-cortes25 March 2014
Thrilling as well as handsome adventure story set in 1896 , dealing with of two man-eating lions , hunting together for sport rather than food , as they killed 130 people and nearly derailed the building of the East African Railway . These Lions of Tsavo (prophetically means place of slaughter) were maneless, perhaps due to environmental variables, although maneless lions are not unique to Tsavo. Their taste for man may have been due to an outbreak of Rinderpest at the time, which may have depleted their normal prey. Engineer John Patterson (Val Kilmer) is sent by his chief (Tom Wilkinson) to build a bridge over the Tsavo river . Then the workers become convinced the lions , nicknamed ¨The Ghost¨ and ¨the Darkness¨ are actually demons carrying out a cruel carnage . John sets in pursuit the beasts but he has little luck killing the lions , though he gets to survive on a mixture of cunning and bravura . As the beasts contemptuously evade all traps set for them . After losing dozens of workers to the lions, the company brought in Remington, an American , to hunt them, but even his reputation for being the best could not prevent yet more massacre . There is eventually formed a team between the brave engineer and a famous white hunter (Michael Douglas ,despite having top billing, he doesn't appear on screen until 45 minutes into the movie) but the legendary lions survive to kill and kill again ; as they still seem to have advantage until a frenziedly breathtaking last reel .

This nail-biting film packs thrills , chills , grisly events , slurping blood , quick cut edition is used to depict the lions' attacks and terror elements . Based on a true story well screen-written by the notorious writer William Goldman , he took the actual experiences by real Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson published a book about his adventures , titled "The Man-Eaters of Tsavo" ; however , Michael Douglas' character Remington as a 'great white hunter' is fictionalized , while Val Kilmer's character John Patterson killed both lions . Lt. Col. Patterson owned the skins and skulls of the two Tsavo man-eaters. After the lions were killed, their skins were used as rugs by Patterson. They were later sold In 1924, Patterson sold them to the Field Museum in Chicago for $5,000 . Because they were originally used as rugs with resulting deterioration of the hides, the lions are much smaller than they originally were . There is only one scene involving an animatronic lion , all the other shots were used using two real life lions named Bongo and Caeser ; the same lions also appeared in the film George of the jungle (1997).

Very good acting from main cast , and nice support casting . As Val Kilmer is magnificent as an engineer in charge of building a bridge and turned into a relentless hunter . Michael Douglas is top-notch as a two-fisted as well as legendary game hunter with his complex mixture of bravado , toughness and calm . Impressive production design and art design from Stuart Wurtzel and Giles Masters , including wonderful outdoors and a lot of extras . The location where the bridge was built is now called Man-Eater's Junction, after the two lions. It is in Tsavo East National Park, Kenya, about 200 miles southeast of Nairobi . Support actors are frankly engaging such as Tom Wilkinson as Robert Beaumont , John Kani as Samuel , Bernard Hill as Dr. David Hawthorne , Brian McCardie as Angus Starling , Om Puri as Abdullah and Emily Mortimer as wife . Rousing as well as exciting musical score by maestro Jerry Goldsmith . The motion picture was compellingly filmed by Director Stephen Hopkins (Lost in space , Predator 2 , Under suspicion , Blown away) , he wanted his longtime collaborator Peter Levy to be the film's cinematographer, but he was overruled by the studio, who wanted to hire Vilmos Zsigmond who carries out a splendid and colorful cinematography . Rating : Above average . Well worth watching .
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Awesome Movie, It's Like Jaws with Lions
killgamers25 June 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This film is amazing a real gem. The scenery is spectacular, acting superb, great performances by the lions. A real masterpiece! Even better knowing it's a true story.

The sound effects were fantastic, you really get a feel for what it must have been like being close to these dangerous monsters. Even the lions were afraid.

On surround sound fairly loud, the roar and growls of the lions really makes an emotional impact. If you liked the film Jaws, you will definitely like this film.

I was a bit worried about the killing of lions to be sad and depressing, because I really love lions. That's why it has taken me so long to see this film.

However these lions really deserved it! They were nasty scary beasts and would make any vegetarian want to go back to eating meat. :D Anyway great film, another must see before you die type movie.
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" There is nothing like the fear a man eater brings. They own the night and kill so quickly "
thinker169123 November 2008
In the year 1898 in the country of Kenya, near a town called Tsavo, arose a story so terrifying, it still elicits fear today. The entire incident was recorded in a book which was instrumental in becoming the factual basis for the movie. Two incredible large marauding lions, began stalking, attacking and devouring people working on a trans-African railroad bridge. So successful were these lions, that after killing over a hundred people, the Africans named them, 'The Ghost and the Darkness." A British royal engineer, one Col. John Henry Patterson was commissioned to construct a bridge over the Tsavo river. Unfazed by the lions, he began work, until the lions became a definite threat to his project. Halting his work Patterson set out to do battle with these two kings of the night. The film which was made depicting the true story, stars Val Kilmer as Col. John Henry Patterson and is so well done, it is surprisingly real. It is also interesting that Michael Douglas is in the film portraying Charles Remington, a great white hunter type, even though no such character was ever in the book. Tom Wilkinson, an exceptional character actor is Robert Beaumont and John Kani is Samuel. This movie has been slated for eventual status as a classic. But only time will tell. ****
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Flawed but entertaining, and with a killer bite
Samiam328 April 2010
True story, two lions killed a hundred railroad workers in east Africa in 1898. Col. Pattersson is sent from England to supervise the building of a bridge in Uganda across the Tsavo river. He ends up a bit over his head when the lions show up. He teams up with famed hunter Charles Remmington to bring down the cats from hell.

It wasn't until I heard what other people had to say that I realized that The Ghost in the Darkness is half way to a Jaws rip-off. But of course this is a real story. I've even seen the hides of the two lions preserved in Chicago's natural history museum. They were actually maneless, but for obvious reasons this film gives its killer fuzzballs the hunk hair which makes Lions stand out from any other cat.

I do know that cats are generally more aggressive than dogs towards people (because of their rogue personalities), but these lions are unnaturally ferocious. They are more monster than animal, which is the intended approach of course. Sometimes though it gets a little unbelievable. One scene in particular, involves the cats ambushing a dorm of about two dozen, all are killed. Regardless of their size or ferocity, are we supposed to believe that two lions can kill that many people in thirty seconds flat without one escaping. It's a tent for god sakes.

There are a few other problems with The Ghost and the Darkness. Tom Wilkinson's performance is annoying. this is too lame a role for such a good actor. I didn't think Michael Douglas was that great either. He plays the role with too much Indiana Jones in him. A there are also a couple of scenes which are just playing goofy.

In general though, The Ghost and the Darkness actually amounts to an entertaining monster movie. I'll give the most credit to the animal trainers, because these lions give great performances. I wouldn't call it a scary movie but it certainly has its grizzly parts which might shake you up some. The Ghost and the Darkness bridges the gap between Thriller, horror, and adventure, and I'm pretty sure it'll give you what you want (assuming this is your kind of movie)
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The story of a fine man facing an adventure of his lifetime
mallitch15 January 2005
A story of Col. Patterson building a bridge over the river Tsavo in Africa, and fighting the couple of killer lions and builders scared to death. Firstly it's the views. Africa's all around with yellow, sun burnt, high grown grass moving in the wind (you can smell the scent almost) and the workers who can cast a threat to Patterson if he fails their expectations of killing the lions. Secondly Val Kilmer's performance. He's not acting, he's just there fighting the obstacles. Thirdly Mike Douglas's influential way of telling things. He's more convincing than in 'Basic Instinct' and sorry Oliver, 'The Wall Street'. His macho appearance doesn't interfere with the main plot but comes to be part of it. Last not least it's Jerry Goldsmith's music. I don't know how he did it but he made it perfect. You just have to sense it to feel it. One of my favourites.
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"If you lock eyes with them, you will be afraid."
fredericksmith19526 February 2012
Since the film was shot in South Africa, the scenery is exceptional. Like all docudramas, an amount of license was taken. Micheal Douglas' part in the film is fictional, but very well played and adds to the suspense of the movie. Val Kilmer gives a very quiet but determined air to the role and is supported by excellent performances by John Kani, Om Puri, and Henry Cele, all essential character actors who bring the proper balance of ethnicity and culture to the film. Tom Wilkinson plays Robert Beaumont, a man dedicated to advancing his position to the throne ("I care about my Knighthood!"), across the backs of the people he assigns the tasks. He is a self described Monster who can either make or break a career, and has no qualms about either. Overall the film is matter of fact and very ordinary, but what cannot be denied is that this happened. I have been to the Field Museum and seen the Lions of Tsavo. It is as the last line of the movie says. "If you lock eyes with them, you will be afraid." Lots of gory scenes make this unsuitable for the children, but most teens have seen worse on their video games. Not necessarily collectible, but certainly worth a viewing, especially if you enjoy Kilmer and Douglas.
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The Ghost and the Darkness
moviemaster00720 January 2011
I have heard some people say that this movie is a remake of Jaws. The only way this movie even comes close to Jaws is that it is an animal that is killing people. Other than that this movie is in no relation to Jaws. The story it's self is amazing, and true! I read the book written by James Patterson on his adventures in Africa. And except for Remington killing the first lion, and the lions having manes, the movie is very close to what really happened. I find this movie one of the most exciting and memorable movies I have ever seen. I first watched when I was about 10 years old, and I never forgot a second of it. In conclusion, I see this movie as Val Kilmer's best work and one of the best thriller movies ever. It is my favorite movie.
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Fact, Fiction, and Somewhere Inbetween: A Good Flick
jimmylee-111 July 2006
When I was in high school, my English teacher made us document all the differences we could spot between the Ronald Coleman movie version of "A Tale of Two Cities" and Dicken's novel. It's an exercise I find myself doing every time a movie comes out - especially when the movie is supposedly based on fact.

When I saw "The Ghost and the Darkness," I had already read "the Man-Eating Lions of Tsavo" and already seen the lions in the Field Museum. There really were two lions that killed well over 40 workers during the construction of a railroad in Africa in Tsavo, Kenya in the late 1800s. National Geographic also did an article about the aggressive Tsavo lions in 2002. I found the real story fascinating, and was really looking forward to the movie.

I understand that the normally maneless lions found in Tsavo don't look quite right for us ignorant viewers (could have just explained it with a one liner from a native, but oh well), so they used lions with manes.

I also realize that we as an audience today are too politically correct to cope with the way the white man treated natives back then, so the movie has been historically sanitized, with a few remarks sprinkled throughout on religious reformation from the doctor. I suppose we must continue to pretend certain behaviors in history didn't happen.

Yet another key change: I'm not clear why we needed another mighty hunter in the story. Patterson had the help of a district manager from time to time, but not another great white hunter. In Africa in that period, getting messages and arranging encounters wasn't easy - strangers of European race were apt to consider each other friends just because they were the same color upon encounter in that era - something the movie fails to get across - it's unlikely that another hunter could be reached easily. And certainly great star/hunter Val could carry a movie on his own.

Fortunately the character Michael Douglas plays does not detract from the movie, and there is that extra emphasis on the Ghost/Darkness nomenclature from the (again, additional characters) Masai. Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer did play off each other well, although neither seemed able to fully adopt Southern/Irish (? did we need those?) accents respectively.

I do think the hunting scenes in the movie captured well the constant effort to see something, staring into the darkness at nothing, that hunting at night can be like. Not to mention the cold sweat, stark fear, blinding pain, and sudden calm and desperation that a near death experience is.

Which is why, in spite of the factual inconsistencies, I gave the movie the rating I did. Worth the watch, if only for that. If you really want to know about the Lions of Tsavo, read the story by Patterson - it's pamphlet #7, published in 1925 from the Field Museum in Chicago.
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Chills Galore from Two Bad Kitties
PartialMovieViewer16 July 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Exciting movie – well acted and brilliantly directed. The attention to detail going into this production is amazing. It seems modern day monsters have to be ridiculously strong; impossible to kill and horribly frightening. I guess a rule of thumb now-a-days would be, 'The scarier the CGI-ghoul, the bigger the shock value and bigger profits.' Nothing like that was used here - just a marriage of talent and skill. I have to say that this flick ended up being a nail-biting-tingle. Brilliant filming, directing and acting transformed two relatively timid lions into some scary hairy beasts (I - uh - guess they were already that.) In order to get a rise out of the audience when the two monster kitties made their approach, everything had to work perfectly. Well in this movie – everything did work flawlessly and the scare factor was outstanding. Without a doubt, Stephen Hopkins is a very talented director and skilled visionary. Of course it did not hurt having two terrifically talented stars such as…Val 'I'll Be Your Huckleberry' Kilmer and Michael Douglas. These two guys were really spot-on. The whole movie is a sight of beauty as well. I highly recommend anyone to watch. It does not have the flash and pace of the movies cranked out now-a-days, but it is still a pretty good ride. Even though the story is loosely based on actual occurrences…the idea is there…and pretty harrowing.
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A story of two demonic lions
david-sarkies16 February 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This is one absolutely awesome movie. It is about two man eating lions that plague a construction site of a bridge in Africa. These lions are no ordinary lions, they are vicious man eaters that do not conform to what lions are like. The natives call them demons, and as this is claimed to be a true story, this is biblically possible. But before I go into the theology of this, I wish to look at the movie first.

This move is set in Africa at the turn of the century. There is a race with the other European countries, namely Germany, to colonise Africa. A bridge must be built so that the British can move further inland. When Val Kilmer's character first looks at the river he is amazed. He says that the wonder of building bridges is to put land over water. The bridge is also seen as a chain, or a manacle for the river. An unbridged river is an obstacle but a bridge makes this obstacle no more. The bridge tames the land for the river can no longer block the progress of man. But here the land seems to fight back.

Right at the beginning, the first lion attacks and is killed with one bullet. Thus Val Kilmer comes out as a hero. Soon after the two lions, the Ghost and the Darkness, come and cause havoc in the campsite. No matter what they do they cannot stop these lions. A great hunter, Remington (Michael Douglas) comes along to help get rid of these lions. He believes them to be simple lions, but when his tribe leaves, he suddenly realises what he is up against. There is a very interesting scene, but to tell you about it would give something away.

These lions are considered demons by the natives, and in my mind this is possible. If we look in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, there is the story of the man possessed by the demon legion (he is called legion because he is many). The demon pleads with Christ not to send them back to hell so Christ sends them into a herd of swine. This shows us that demons can manifest themselves in animals as well as in humans. With this in mind, the animal kingdom is not as weak as we make it out to be. These lions were intelligent and would torment their enemies and then turn and indiscriminately kill. If you watch the hospital scene you will note that they kill everybody but do not take anybody away to eat. As Remington says, "they do it for the pleasure of it." Even though they are demons, they are still lions, as the swine were still swine. Just because they were possessed did not mean they were unkillable. The soul cannot be destroyed but the body can. The swine ran into the lake and were drowned, the lions were also vulnerable in the same way.

This movie comes out as a horror movie, but it is far more than that. There is not ghosts or demons running about, just two lions. The natives call them evil, and that they are, but the movie is real, or so it claims. This really happened and thus can happen to us. A horror movie comes across as being unreal. We can leave a horror movie at the end and be comforted that it is not real. This was. The only comfort we have is that the lions are dead.
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one of the better killer animal films
puttputtk7 June 2010
Ghost and the Darkness (1996)

5 word summary

Man-eating Lions Terrorize African village

The Ghost and the Darkness is very interesting movie. It's based on a true story, but really who ever knows how much of that story is true. The story of 2 lions attacking the workers of a rail road and the hunt for those lions by Patterson are both known true and not necessarily that exciting. However, how clever and seemingly hell bent on killing Patterson and the other men the lions are almost brings this movie into a Horror genre than just the adventure/thriller.

Director Stephen Hopkins did a very good job at building tension and really making this a heart pounding thriller. The problem however with the film, and what knocked down the rating for me, was the acting. Val Kilmer, who can be good, and Michael Douglas, who can be amazing, both had mediocre performances at best. Kilmer didn't seem to care about the film or his character. Douglas almost over acted but it still was poor.

With the acting aside it was a very enjoyable film. A real thrill ride. Its one of the best films I've seen about killer animals, besides Jaws of course. The fact that it's "based on a true story" brings a sense of terror not usually accompanied with similar films.

Like I said its no Jaws, but it's better than Anaconda

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A Thrilling Adventure!
lawrence_elliott1 March 2007
Maitland Edey of Time-Life Books wrote quite a lengthy story relating to the man-eating lions of Tsavo in the late 19th Century. This would be a worthwhile read to back up this exciting movie experience.

Val Kilmer does an admirable job in his role as an Irish engineer who is building a bridge for the British Empire. The supporting cast is very good and the suspense is well developed throughout the film. The scenes with the lions are brutal, frightening and gory.

Although this movie has an excellent cast, it is somewhat damaged by the sudden, awkward and embarrassing appearance of the Executive Producer of the film, Michael Douglas, who tries masquerading as a war-weary soldier-hunter, who is hell-bent on destroying these two man-eating lions. His acting does improve as the movie progresses but his appearance in the film is gratuitous.

Douglas's acting leaves a lot to be desired but the movie picks back up, undamaged, as Val Kilmer resumes the lead role again in hunting down these "devil-possessed" lions. Sensitive and moving scenes juxtaposed against the savagery of the lion attacks add power to the sequences making this movie a true cinematic treat.

Although it is gory and frightening in spots, this tale works well with the interesting narrative that accompanies it.

A thrilling movie, one that should be seen. A great adventure!
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Could have been great if... (possible spoilers)
ADG99916 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
...This incredible true story could have been much, much better than it was, but choppy editing, inconsistent direction, less-than-great cinematography,and the questionable plot decision to add a fictional American big game hunter to "help" Patterson hunt the lions, made this movie less than it could have been. The fact is that, in real life, Patterson (SPOILER) killed both lions himself, and frankly I think it would have been a better movie if they had written the script to reflect that. The Remington character always seemed somewhat out of place to me, and when I realized he was just a device added by the writers, for reasons that I still can't fathom, I understood why. Maybe they were afraid Val Kilmer could not carry the movie on his own--frankly, I think he could have with no problem. Maybe it was because Michael Douglas was an executive producer on the film, and wanted to be in the movie. Whatever the reason, this movie goes on my list of "missed opportunities" to make a really great film. Eight stars, only because I love the story, and love what the movie could have been.
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Absolutely terrific film, perfect despite imperfection
mikeymg123426 November 2010
I usually don't like to write such reviews as I'm about to write, but I must say in my humble opinion, that -to me- this movie comes off perfect. Of course as with anything there are errors/imperfections scattered about. But with its imperfections included its still a perfect piece for anybody who enjoys movies about Africa, adventure, struggle, and triumph. I think that the imperfections of this movie are actually able to support the story by making it in no way appear scripted. A crazy animal hunt along with the main characters and others own frustrations... everything is meant to appear improvised, and does. It is hard to explain, but as for imperfections there are a very few and not particularly noticeable, but do add to the "feel" of the story. I suggest you watch it, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
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Good To Watch
Pratik1124 February 2008
Colonel J.H. Patterson, in late 1898, goes to British East Africa to build a bridge across the Tsavo river. Everything goes well until two man eating lions appear on the scene and attack the men, mostly Africans and Indians, drag their bodies out of the camps despite being surrounded by thorn fences and wires, and kill them. In order for more such killings to be stopped and to make sure that men are safe, Patterons requests for troops to be brought i in. But this is denied and he has no option but to take action himself.

Based on the book by J.H. Pattereon, entitled, "Man Eaters of Tsavo," the movie stars Val Kilmer as J.H. Patterson and Michael Douglas as Charles Remington. There are some errors in this movie. The movie depicts that possible three lions were attacking the camp at Tsavo at the time. This is not quite true as there were only two, which were killed by Patterson himself. And there's no such character as "Charles Remington" and it seems like that this was only created for the purpose of the film. There were something like 30,000 Indians brought in by the colonial authorities from the Indian subcontinent but we are shown only a few - in some cases hardly. Thirdly, there's only once scene of the river but the name of the river is never mentioned once in the movie. Lastly, the Masai shown jumping and drinking blood from a cow, it is a tradition which is well shown. However, the jumping of them is not really quite up to it as they are able to jump much higher then shown.

Filmed in South Africa and not in Kenya, which was British East Africa, the movie depicts the building of the bridge across the Tsavo river and of the Uganda railway from the coastal town of Mombasa, in Kenya, right through to Uganda. The movie also stars Bollywood actor, who has worked in English movie before, "East Is East," Om Puri. It also shows Kilmer in a more serious and in an adventure type role.

For these who are interested in African adventures, this is one movie that should not be missed at anytime.
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Authoritative and credible, but CHILLING-this will give you serious nightmares. Steel yourself before watching it. 10/10. Spoilers.
lizziebeth-120 October 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Be afraid. Be very afraid. The 'Ghost' and the 'Darkness' were two cunning man-eating lions in 1898 (I even had a child's encyclopaedia that mentioned them). This is their story.

We first meet Col. John Patterson (Val Kilmer), a bridge-building engineer-cum-adventurer, as he discovers that his new boss, the obnoxious Robert Beaumont (Tom Wilkinson from the Full Monty) is a ruthless, self-styled `monster'. `You build bridges, John. You have to go where the rivers are', his enormously understanding pregnant wife tells him, but Patterson's maturity and political nous worries and saddens him over his coming separation with Helena (Emily Mortimer) during her pregnancy; so he's determined to return to her before the birth. What a good husband.

But what I like most about this film is its multicultural POV. Clearly the international bridge-building effort (much like Australia's famous Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme of the 1950s) provided a modern setting for a very accessible 1990s screenplay. Samuel (John Kani, in beautiful African garb), the camp's liaison officer and `the only man everyone trusts', gives the newly arriving Patterson a succinct overview of the culture clashes in the camp.

Abdullah (Om Puri) is the recalcitrant/recidivist Indian foreman. I am disappointed in him for his awful line `Of course; you can do anything because you're white' (such defeatist sarcasm conversely also means that anyone who isn't white is incompetent). Thanks Abdullah-your racist attitudes are bad news for EVERYONE.

David Hawthorne (Bernard Hill) is entertaining as the put-upon surgeon. He's coping with an outbreak of malaria, but also an evangelizing lackey of Beaumont's, Angus Starling (Brian McCardie), who is constantly trying to convert everyone to Christianity. The surgeon regularly loses patience with him, for Starling's habitual pestering of the sick (me too! I long for the day when there will be ethical and legal controls on evangelists). Hawthorne is cynical about the whole bridge-building exercise too: `This is a sham, who needs it? ...It's only being built to protect the ivory trade'.

Realistic thrillers are always more frightening than schlocky rubbish. The chills are begun in earnest by Samuel's accented narration (the accent hints at the added stressor of confusion). Our foreboding of dread is soon represented by waves of African grass, which may serve to hide a stalking lion. At 27mins we see our first devastating lion attack, upon the robust, well-respected African foreman Mahina (Henry Cele). Please steel yourself for the sudden strike as the men sleep in the tent. The scene never fails to shock me; and the terror just gets worse. Samuel's narration deepens our fear, giving us a hint of what the men working on that railroad in 1898 must have felt.

Of course, Abdullah The B*st*rd tries to incite a riot, but he is revealed as a liar when, with a gun finally to his own head, he claims `I am a man of peace'. Ha, you're joking, right? Look, I don't mind the workers being fearful; in 3months the lions (the man-eaters don't behave/hunt like any other lions) have killed about 30 men. What I DO mind is some dullard whipping up prejudice and superstition, no doubt, NO DOUBT, for personal gain (whipping up prejudice has ALWAYS been the tool of megalomaniacs, to rally forces behind themselves at the front. You BET it's for personal gain). People like Abdullah belong in jail (what's the bet he already HAD a rap sheet as long as your arm?) ...Anyway, the man who has so cleverly diagnosed the problem is big-game hunter-for-hire, Remington (Michael Douglas). However, Douglas' establishing scene is highly self-serving, as usual: the screenplay has him gaining our acceptance at the cost of the doctor's intelligence. Come on, EVERY African surgeon would know all too well the dangers of hospital decay as an irresistible attraction to lions. Those lines were written only for our foreigners', and Douglas' benefits- he was also Co-Exec Producer. Remington's been hired by the big boss to contain and quell any rumours of delay on the railroad.

Remington is a pretty good hunter. He's wise enough to employ a rolling band of Masai warriors, and together, they act as the `fixers' of Africa. It's very exciting; I've never seen such a thing before. Unfortunately, every trap they set for the lions fails. When Patterson himself finally freezes during a head-to-head confrontation with one of them, even the Masai decide to leave because they have glimpsed the animals' intelligence, and declared them not lions, but `The Ghost' and `The Darkness'.

So Remington and Patterson go out alone, tracking the lions back to their den. Foolishly entering a highly dangerous, enclosed situation, they discover an astonishing sight: the lions' den is littered with dozens of old human skeletons. Upon seeing them, Remington declares that these lions hunt for `pleasure'. Well, actually, I say the lions killed people to make them dead, which is just domination. The lions are clever; they've figured out that they need to get rid of the people taking over what used to be theirs, the lions' territory. It's an interspecies pi**ing contest; and Remington is best when he doesn't underestimate his enemy. He likens the lions to two bullies of his childhood, who separately seemed beatable, `but together were lethal'. I agree; it's no good demonizing the animals. Sure, they were not to be underestimated, but had Remington and Patterson agreed with the Masai that `there was not enough blood in all the world that would make these demons stop drinking', they couldn't've stood up to the bullies. And I think that's always true between humans, too.

I have to again commend Kilmer for his emotional range in the scene with his wife. I truly felt his elation and humility. He kisses her repeatedly for being clean and untouched by the vicious ugliness that's been his life since he entered Africa. His nightmare(s) about lions stalking his family will no doubt haunt him for a long, long time.

I can't fault this movie. 10/10.
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